HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina woman says she was "terrified" when a judge told her to cover herself while breastfeeding or leave his courtroom.
Stephanie Rhodus, 25, of Forest City, said she was trying to breastfeed her 8-month-old son, Archer, on Monday during a case involving an older child when the judge gave the order.
"He was extremely condescending, threatening. He was aggressive," she told WHNS-TV.
"Ma'am, you need to cover up," District Court Judge Peter Knight said, according to an audio recording obtained by local news media. "For you not to realize that is absolutely ridiculous.
"Step outside and cover up, right now. Stand up and go," Knight said. As he continued to speak to the woman, he told her she could be seated and continue to read her complaint if she buttoned up.
Rhodus can be heard saying that she is finished reading the complaint.
North Carolina law says "a woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be."
Rhodus later told news outlets she didn't want to use a blanket because her son doesn't like to be covered while she's breastfeeding.
"I do apologize for the breastfeeding," Rhodus said after she finished reading the complaint.
"We as a court routinely accommodate women who are nursing, including while they are waiting for a case to be called in the courtroom," Knight said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. "When a case is called and a party is participating in a formal hearing before the court, all litigants are expected to respect the same rules of procedure, decorum and dress."
"I was terrified, I never expected anything like that," Rhodus told the newspaper.
Knight ruled against Rhodus in the case involving her mother, who has custody of Rhodus' 8-year-old son.
This story has been edited to correct the second reference to the judge: Knight, not Parker.